India’s Bharti Airtel launched 2G and 3G mobile services in Sri Lanka under the Airtel brand yesterday as planned, after investing half of a USD200 million network rollout budget taking it up to 2012. Airtel is the fifth cellular player on the island, competing with Malaysian-owned TM International’s Dialog Telekom, Tigo Sri Lanka, owned by Millicom International Cellular, Hutchison Telecom International’s local unit Hutch Lanka and Mobitel, a subsidiary of incumbent telco Sri Lanka Telecom. The Indian-backed cellco is expected to compete mainly on price. Commenting on the development, Bharti Group Chairman Sunil Mittal said: ‘It will be Airtel’s endeavour to drive affordability in the Sri Lankan market…We are confident that with our experience of 88 million customers, we will make a positive impact on the telecom land space of Sri Lanka.’ The company is offering simple tariff plans which do away with peak and off-peak call rates by offering standard tariffs throughout the day and night. Bharti has previously launched overseas mobile services on three other islands: the Seychelles, Jersey and Guernsey (both in the UK Channel Islands).
In other news, the country’s third largest cellco by user base, Tigo Sri Lanka reached two million subscribers by the end of 2008, reports Lanka Business Online. A statement from the company, formerly known as Celltel Lanka, attributed the growth to ‘network expansion, the strength of the brand and excellent customer service…The year 2008 saw heavy investment by the company to expand the network adding an average of 40 towers a month.’ Rapid growth in the island’s mobile market has slowed in recent years and increased competition saw all operators lowering prices and advertising aggressively to retain customers or win new ones. Tigo, like its rivals, offers free incoming calls and per second billing.